ORLANDO: KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE, CAPE CANAVERAL

Trip Start Apr 01, 2013
1
23
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Trip End Jun 28, 2013


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What I did
Angus Steakhouse

Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, April 22, 2013

Had a great sleep which is not surprising after yesterday's early start.

Unfortunately there was no free brekkie at the hotel I was staying at. Every other hotel I have stayed at has had the free breakfast, although they are pretty basic. Still, nothing wrong with free juice, coffee, yoghurt, toast and eggs. Better than paying for it, which was what I was going to have to do on this occasion. I ended up grabbing a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches to eat on the way to Kennedy Space Centre, which was today's destination.

I had pre-booked a Grayline full day bus tour to the Kennedy Space Station at Cape Canaveral. Pick-up was scheduled for 8.15am. Finally the coach turned up at 8.40am and we were off. It's about an 80 minute drive to the Space Centre but the driver kept us entertained and gave us some pointers on what order we should do things in when we arrived.

Upon arrival, I got the obligatory photo outside the 'NASA' sign at the front of the facility and headed through security. Same screening process as CNN and Coca Cola.

Once through the gates, as per our driver's advice, I headed straight to the Kennedy Space Centre bus tour which takes you to the area where the VIP's and dignitaries watch shuttle/rocket launches from. You also get to see the vehicle assembly building, the Apollo/Saturn V Centre, the Launch Control Centre and view the Crawler transporter which carried the space shuttles to the launch pad. This was a great part of the tour and really interesting.

The Vehicle Assembly Building, which is the largest one story building in the world, stands out like dog's balls. It's huge and could house the Statue of Liberty inside and still have 200 feet to spare.

We drove past the Launch Control Centre which is only used for part of the launch sequence before it is handed over to 'Houston'. We got to see the official countdown clock in the distance, which has been used since the 60's, and also got to view the Crawler transporter up close. The transporter travels across gravel which is on top of a huge concrete driveway which goes all the way from the Assembly area to the launch pad. The concrete is 16 inches thick due to the weight being carried.

We stopped at the Apollo/Saturn V Centre and got off to view a full size Saturn V rocket that was to have been the Apollo 18 mission but it was cancelled. It was massive ! It's amazing that something so huge could even make it into space. It's length is longer than 2 space shuttles end-on-end. The Saturn V rocket served as the launch vehicle for the Apollo space craft.

The Centre also has the original launch control room in the building and we got to relive the actual last few minutes of the launch of a Saturn V mission back in the 60's, complete with real audio and video footage. It was like being there. Well,sort of.

There was also a reenactment of when man first set foot on the moon, from the last few minutes before touching down. Some awesome special effects and again, real life audio and video.

Outside the centre was the launch viewing area. It was great being able to view the launch pad from the VIP area and I can only imagine how impressive it must have been to watch a space shuttle launch or any launch for that matter. The launch pad is about 3 miles from the viewing area.

We jumped back on the bus and headed back to the Kennedy Space Centre Visitors Complex. On the way back we got to see some cool wildlife: an alligator sunning himself on the side of a riverbank, a manatee swimming, a variety of different birds and the largest known bald eagle's nest in the world. The Kennedy Space Centre sits in the middle of Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.

Upon our return, I grabbed a bit of lunch, a dirty old pepperoni pizza, before checking out a 3D movie at the IMAX theatre about the Hubble telescope. Now granted, that sounds about as much fun as sand in your vaseline, but the effects were amazing, showing the actual footage of astronauts working inside the shuttles and doing space walks to make repairs to the telescope, and all in 3D. Really cool !

After the movie I headed across to the 'Shuttle Launch Experience' which is a simulation of an actual shuttle launch complete with all the noises, movements, etc. You are tilted 90 degrees as if you were in a shuttle vertically as you would be in real life. It was okay but probably not worth the 30 minute wait in the queue.

Next stop was the 'Astronaut Encounter' which was a presentation provided by Charlie Walker, an astronaut who had flown 3 shuttle missions on 2 different shuttles, the Discovery and the Atlantis. He gave an interesting account of his experiences. I got a photo with him - he was a little guy. Either that or I am just a fat lummix. Actually, probably both :)

I then checked out the 'Rocket Garden' which is an outdoor display of a number of different rockets launched here over the years.

I rounded out the day checking out a couple of other exhibits, one on early space exploration and the other on wildlife in the area.

5.30pm and we were back on the bus and heading back to Orlando. Once I got back to the hotel, it was a quick turn-around and out for dinner.

Determined to have a nice meal, I headed to the Angus Steak House around the corner and grabbed a seat at the bar. I got chatting to a friendly fella named Joe beside me who was the CEO for a fibre optics company and down in Orlando on business. He was telling me his son actually plays rugby. He plays No. 8 and loves Sonny-Bill. Glad someone does. I had a good yarn to him for a couple of hours and gave him an All Black key ring I had with me for his boy. He was stoked.

And the good news is, dinner was gold !!! I had a New York Steak, salad, broccoli, cauli and carrots. Vegetables - yeeeeehaaaaaaaaa !

I headed back to the hotel to pack for my trip to Fort Myers tomorrow.

Over and out.
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